Having decided that Russian teams cannot play international football for an indefinite period due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, the Football Board of Directors is now planning to announce that foreign players contracted by Russian teams can suspend their contracts and move elsewhere – at least temporarily.
The decision will affect about 100 players, who will be able to cancel their Russian contracts and sign with new clubs until June 30. The procedure stops requesting groups representing players and world championships. In a joint letter, reviewed by The New York Times, FIFPro, the world’s largest players association, and the World Leagues Forum, an umbrella organization for more than 40 competitions, asked FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, to allow athletes to leave Russia permanently.
The request has created an embarrassing situation for FIFA. The organization had broken a precedent when it moved to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine – including banning the Russian national team from qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup – but allowing players to break their contracts, especially outside the traditional winter and summer football windows, was likely. Much more problematic.
Talks over the weekend between player groups and FIFA, which also included UEFA lawyers and club representatives, failed to reach consensus, with officials said to be concerned about setting a precedent. Instead, FIFA has decided that players who wish to leave Russian teams can do so but must return after June 30.
An official statement is likely to be issued on Monday. In their letter, FIFPro and the league group noted that some players were no longer comfortable playing for Russian teams after the invasion of Ukraine.
“These foreign players may rightly consider that they are not ready to represent a Russian team anymore and should be able to immediately terminate their contract with their employer without facing any penalty of any kind from international bodies and register at a new club without restriction,” the letter stated. Transfer Period Regulations.
Under local rules, Russian clubs can have up to eight foreign players, known as Legionnaires, on their rosters. The current Russian champion Zenit St Petersburg includes five Brazilians, a Colombian, a Croatian and one player from Kazakhstan.
At least one club, Krasnodar, announced last week that it would allow foreign players and coaching staff to suspend their contracts. His German coach Daniel Farke, the former manager of Premier League club Norwich, has resigned after less than two months out of his contract without overseeing a single match. But foreign players continued to dress up for the Russian national team in the final round of domestic league matches over the weekend.
The Russian declaration of war exposed loopholes in the laws regulating sports organizations such as FIFA. After the invasion began, and sparked worldwide condemnation, FIFA lawyers and officials scrambled to find a way to take actions that could be justified under its regulations. At first, officials proposed measures that did not amount to a complete ban: Russia was to be banned from playing on its homeland and forbidden from using its flag and even its name. But that sanction faded within 24 hours when opponents of Russia – and about a dozen other countries – announced that they would refuse to share the stadium with Russia anywhere and anytime matches were played.
A day later, FIFA expelled Russia’s teams and clubs from world football. But her lawyers are already preparing for a battle over the decision. The Russian Football Association has called for an urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to make a decision before March 24, the date Poland was supposed to host the World Cup qualifiers.
Russo-Ukrainian War: Basic things to know
Russia argued that FIFA had no legal standing to remove it from the competition.
FIFA officials are particularly concerned about the case, knowing that Russia may be able to test the legality of the decision. FIFA’s argument is expected to rely on the organization’s supremacy as the organizer of the World Cup in order to organize a smooth tournament and ensure the safety and security of its participants.
Russia has already contacted potential arbitrators for this case. (Both sides are able to appoint one, with a court-appointed chair of the jury.) The hearing, regardless of the outcome, is likely to result in renewed scrutiny of the court, a largely opaque body that handles most hearings behind closed doors.
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